Festool is known worldwide for the quality and performance of their shop tools. They’re some of the most desired tools, especially among woodworkers. However, when you step out of the shop and onto the jobsite, the brand is not as widely used as the other big names. Even more, a lot of guys will balk when they look at the price point. So what do tools like the Festool PDC 18-4 QuaDrive offer to command this respect among woodworkers? More importantly, are we just paying a premium because they had to ship it over from Germany?
You know, one of my major complaints about the news media, in general, is that I can’t seem to get a story without the spin. For once, I’d just like to have the facts about what is going on and be left to use my own reasoning to come to a conclusion. Heck, imagine if I were even given the opportunity to ask a few questions myself in getting to an answer!
Okay, I do need to get off my soapbox here for a moment. At the same time, I want to offer you what I wish I was being given. As we work through the features and performance of the Festool PDC 18/4 QuaDrive Cordless Drill Set, I’ll tell you the facts along with some information regarding design intent, and offer my opinion of the overall experience. But that’s the thing—it’s just my opinion. Whether or not it’s right for you is your decision!
Festool PDC 18-4 QuaDrive Cordless Drill Set Features
There are a lot of features packed into the Festool PDC 18-4 QuaDrive Set. Let’s start with what comes in this kit. It’s a big deal thanks to the QuaDrive’s design as a drill with interchangeable chucks. With the empty chuck, you’ll be able to insert any 1/4″ bit. It’s not a quick connect like you’ll find on an impact driver though.
The 1/2″ drill chuck operates exactly as you’d expect any other drill chuck would. A right-angle chuck is a very welcome addition to the group, allowing you to fix the chuck in an optimal position perpendicular to the drill. Finally, Festool includes a chuck for its Centrotec system. This acts similar to a 1/4″ hex chuck, but it’s a little smaller to take advantage of Festool’s proprietary Centrotec bits. An adapter is included for use with your 1/4″ hex bits.
Once you’ve oriented yourself around the chuck options that come in the set, it’s time to look around the drill itself. On the top controls, you’ll find a 4-speed gearbox. This isn’t really catching on yet, but there are a couple of other 3- and 4-speed options out there and I like the versatility. Not all tasks are high speed or high torque. Having options in between allows you to work with greater efficiency.
A typical clutch system comes on the QuaDrive with obviously varying torque based on gear. The 12 clutch settings will give you the following options:
- 1st Gear Clutch Torque: 6.6 – 106 inch-pounds
- 2nd Gear Clutch Torque: 5.3 – 66 inch-pounds
- 3rd Gear Clutch Torque: 4.7 – 44 inch-pounds
- 4th Gear Clutch Torque: 4.4 – 24 inch-pounds
Despite not mentioning it in the name, the Festool PDC 18/4 QuaDrive Cordless Drill is a hammer drill (or percussive drill if you’re overseas). You’ll get up to 76,000 blows per minute to help drill through concrete and masonry tasks.
With most companies, I wouldn’t consider the case as part of the feature set, but Festool really tops the industry here. You get a Festool Systainer with a custom-molded insert to keep all of your set pieces organized and protected when not in use. Festool even created a tray on top to organize and store any accessories you might want to keep on hand.
Festool PDC 18/4 QuaDrive Cordless Drill Set Included Pieces
- Festool PDC 18/4 QuaDrive Cordless Drill
- (2) 5.2 amp hour Festool lithium-ion battery packs
- Auxiliary handle
- Depth Rod
- Centrotec chuck
- Right angle chuck
- 1/2″ drill chuck
- Centrotec adapter
- SYS 2 T-LOC Systainer
Festool PDC 18/4 QuaDrive Cordless Drill Performance
Clearly, Festool designed the QuaDrive to still work well in the shop, but also gave it the tools to get out on the jobsite. To see how it would perform out where the big boys live, I put it through the same kind of tests we performed in our Heavy Duty 18V drill shootout. It had to show us what it is capable of when it comes to drilling, driving lag bolts, boring with spade bits, and cutting with hole saws.
With incredibly quick no-load speed of 3,800 RPM in high, the Festool PDC 18/4 QuaDrive is an absolute dream in drilling applications. Without stopping in between, it took just 22.23 seconds to drill twelve 1/4-inch holes in 3 inches of stacked plywood. To put this in perspective, the fastest drill in our shootout took 25.66 seconds, and we tested it twice because it was so far ahead of the rest!
Driving 3-1/2 inch by 3/8 inch diameter lag bolts into those pilot holes was next. Driving them flush to the wood surface took an average of 5.27 seconds. This would have been near the bottom of the group. However, let’s keep in mind that the amount of torque available is lower – and the QuaDrive was able to complete the task with no hesitation.
Boring 1 inch holes with a threaded tip spade bit also presented little challenge for the QuaDrive. Averaging just 8.97 seconds to make it through our 3 inches of plywood, it didn’t have the issues of getting bogged down as we saw in some of the other drills we tested. Granted, Festool was slower than the heavy-duty models. I’d be remiss if I didn’t again mention the task itself wasn’t in danger of failure even though the speed was down.
Festool doesn’t offer a maximum hole saw recommendation, so it got to try 3 inches like the rest of the drills we’ve tested. Okay, to be fair, I would have tested it with the same hole saw regardless. This is a tough test. There are many drills that have to drop down into low speed to complete it effectively, and in the process, can torque the mess out of your wrist and elbow. I was able to drill most effectively in 2 gear, but could also make it work in the higher speed 3rd gear. Both resulted in cutting speeds right at 18.20 seconds through 1-1/2 inches of plywood.
What’s difficult to quantify and can’t be shown in pictures is just how smooth the Festool PDC 18/4 QuaDrive Cordless Drill is. The basic ergonomics are outstanding like we expect from Festool products, but it’s even more noticeable under load. It’s one thing to be smooth at high-speed tasks like drilling and screw driving. However, I can’t get over how much better the QuaDrive felt boring and cutting larger holes compared to other big names.
Ergonomics aside, creating a smooth experience requires a tool to deliver its power consistently as the task becomes more stressful. The more a drill binds up and releases, the more we feel it through our arms. Festool simply does a fantastic job of controlling this.
To be fair, the QuaDrive is not going to be the fastest at tough applications. It’s going to contend and most likely lead in all high-speed applications though. It’s also going to alleviate a lot of the soreness that comes from working those high-stress tasks for an entire day.
The Festool PDC 18-4 QuaDrive Cordless Drill set is pro-level without a doubt. Just like you can expect a better driving experience from a Mercedes, you can expect the same from Festool. The QuaDrive is going to be limited on industrial jobsites, but there’s no doubt it will handle anything the residential construction site can throw at it.